As for how to cut the use of paper, a big step, according to Nuance, is to get bigger monitors. Users will be able to view documents on-line with no particular eyestrain, cutting the temptation to make printouts. Prices of monitors continue to drop, they note.
But to view documents on the monitor, they have to be in digital format. Nuance (which sells scanning software) further recommends making scanning capabilities available throughout the organization by using multi-function printers (which Nuance does not make). Anyone should be able to scan, they say, and having the person who is most familiar with the data doing the scanning should improve productivity and workflow (and, presumably, accuracy.)
Specifically, paper documents should be scanned with optical character recognition (OCR) software into a searchable, editable format, such as Word or Excel, to unlock the information it contains. Existing PDF files should also be converted into editable, searchable formats. (Nuance makes conversion software, also.)
It all sounds fine in theory, but OCR can be an adventure in catching weird typographical errors caused by seemingly random misrecognition. Meanwhile, paper documents stuffed into a filing cabinet and forgotten are still likely to remain usable one, three, five, 15, or even 50 years from now. Sadly, that is not the case with data on your hard drive.
So going digital and putting paper behind you doubtless offers near-term advantages, but requires some planning and organization to avoid long-term catastrophe.
In the meantime, getting bigger monitors sounds great.
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